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COVID-19 Information Accessibility Lacking for Blind and Low Vision Australians

Posted October 12, 2020

A Monash University study has found that graphical information relating to the COVID-19 pandemic regularly presented in mainstream media is inaccessible to blind and low vision people (BLV).

Researchers from Monash University’s Faculty of Information Technology (IT) found nearly half of BLV people surveyed wanted improved access to information about daily COVID-safe living practices.

The dissemination of information has been a critical component of the world’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With much of this information presented as visual graphics, a team of researchers from the Faculty of IT examined the nature and accessibility of the information being shared through various media outlets.

Twitter Will Add Transcriptions for Voice Tweets to Promote Accessibility

The company was criticized for rolling out the test feature without support for people with disabilities. Abrar Al-Heeti
Sept. 30, 2020

Twitter said it’s working on adding transcriptions to voice tweets in order to make the feature, which it began testing in the summer, more accessible. This comes after many criticized the social media platform for not taking all users’ needs into consideration before the release.

“We’re rolling out voice Tweets to more of you on iOS so we can keep learning about how people use audio,” the company said in a tweet on Tuesday. “Since introducing the feature in June, we’ve taken your feedback seriously and are working to have transcription available to make voice Tweets more accessible.”

Websites Still Don’t Provide Equal Access in 2020 – and Lawsuits are Increasing

Adam Akinyemi, Whois Accessible
September 26, 2020

The coronavirus outbreak caused a shift in the usage of digital devices.

As people worldwide become heavily dependent on the internet for essential information, work, school, entertainment, and basic needs such as medication and groceries, it’s clearer than ever that digital inclusion is crucial. Yet people with disabilities have struggled to stay informed, shop, and access critical services online due to text with low contrast and the confusion of filling out lengthy forms without labels – as well as a number of other barriers that make the web impossible for some people to use.

Zoom Adds Accessibility Features for Video Meetings

by Jefferson Graham, Usa Today

Zoom, which has become one of the most popular video meeting services, added new features Wednesday aimed at improving accessibility for those who are differently abled.

A highlight for the hearing impaired is the ability to drag and drop the video windows around in Zoom’s Gallery View, and to “pin” the ones you want to be spotlighted.

Before the update, the participants’ and hosts’ videos were fixed

Before the update, the Zoom chat windows were fixed, and you couldn’t change the layout. Instead, every time a different speaker spoke, they would get prominent position, and the windows would shift automatically.

Girl From Kenora, Ontario Inspires House of Commons Petition to Promote Accessibility for Visually Impaired

Petition calls on government to require braille or tactile symbols on consumer product warning labels Logan Turner · CBC News · Posted: Aug 31, 2020

Samantha Atchison of Kenora, Ont. remembers the day her daughter Jo-Hannah was diagnosed with optic nerve hypoplasia at four months old.

“I had a little bit of a break down from it. You grieve a dream, but you can only grieve for so long before you wake up and you figure out how life is going to move forward.”

Atchison says her daughter’s diagnosis made her realize just how inaccessible the world is for her daughter, “from infant toys to things such as hazardous materials.”

eSSENTIAL Accessibility and PixelMEDIA Partner to Improve Web Accessibility for Digital Commerce

News provided by eSSENTIAL Accessibility
Aug 11, 2020, 10:00

TORONTO, Aug. 11, 2020 /PRNewswire/ – Today, eSSENTIAL Accessibility, the pioneering Accessibility-as-a-Service provider that empowers organizations to offer fully accessible and compliant digital experiences, announced a strategic partnership with PixelMEDIA, a digital commerce agency dedicated to helping lifestyle brands launch, manage, and grow their ecommerce business on Salesforce.

This partnership will allow Pixel to add eSSENTIAL Accessibility’s comprehensive accessibility solution to their suite of digital services, enabling leading lifestyle brands to enhance ecommerce experiences while providing full accessibility to customers of all abilities.

YouTube Is Ending Its Community Captions Feature and Deaf Creators Aren’t Happy about it

The feature, which YouTube says was underutilized, will be discontinued in September By Kim Lyons Jul 31, 2020
The Verge

YouTube plans to discontinue its community captions feature, which allowed viewers to add subtitles to videos, because it was “rarely used and had problems with spam/abuse,” the company announced. It says it’s removing the captions and will “focus on other creator tools.”

The feature will be removed as of September 28th. “You can still use your own captions, automatic captions and third-party tools and services,” YouTube said in an update on its help page.

Disability Groups Demand Access to North Carolina’s Inaccessible Absentee Voting

July 27, 2020 – Raleigh, NC – Today, disability organizations filed a lawsuit against the North Carolina State Board of Elections (“NCSBOE”) for excluding North Carolinians with disabilities from their Absentee Voting program.

The lawsuit charges the state agency with discrimination against voters who are unable to independently and privately mark a paper ballot due to vision disabilities. All North Carolinians deserve to vote safely and independently, especially during the COVID-19 crisis.

The lawsuit was filed the day after the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act by a coalition of groups including Disability Rights Advocates, Disability Rights North Carolina, the North Carolina Council of the Blind, the Governor Morehead School Alumni Association, Inc., and several North Carolina voters with disabilities, including Jo Taliaferro, Kenneth Durden, Kendall Gibbs, and Dr. Ricky Scott.

Glove Translates Sign Language in Real-time

July 6 2020

BIOENGINEERS have built a glove able to translate sign language to speech in real-time.

The cutting-edge glove features thin, stretchable sensors running to the fingertips. These sensors can detect motions and finger placement through electrically conducting yarns. Those sensors are then connected to a tiny circuit board ” approximately the size of a coin worn on users’ wrists.

When people move their hands and fingers to form ‘words’, the glove translates the individual letters, numbers, words and phrases into audible language.

Deaf Community Encounters New Challenges

The now mandatory masks make lip reading, facial cues impossible Andrea Yu
Toronto Star, July 9, 2020

For the deaf and hard of hearing, COVID-19 adds extra challenges for communicating in public.

We’ve all been told to avoid touching our face to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. But for Thinaja Nadarajah, this public health advice is complicated. Nadarajah is deaf and American Sign Language is her first language.

“There’s a lot of touching of the face when signing,” she says. “We often communicate by touch, like tapping on the shoulder to get someone’s attention.”

AbleDocs Inc. and axes4 GmbH Announce Merger to Become the Worldwide Leader in Document Accessibility Products and Services

July 01, 2020

TORONTO & ZURICH–(BUSINESS WIRE)–AbleDocs Inc. the leading PDF accessibility service provider, and axes4 GmbH, the preeminent developer of leading-edge PDF/UA compliant software today announce their merger to become the worldwide leader in PDF accessibility products and services.

The deal combines the joint brain trust of recognized global accessibility leaders under one roof with the goal of continuing to provide unparalleled document accessibility services and industry leading PDF/UA compliant software offerings.

With a long-standing record of joint collaboration, both companies’ founders and leadership teams couldn’t be more excited to leverage each other’s capabilities to offer their existing and new clients the best in PDF/UA products and services.

Hong Kong’s Visually Impaired Deprived of Covid-19 Information With Half of Chinese-Language News Apps Inaccessible, NGO Finds

Hong Kong Blind Union says 2,000 kept out of the loop over city’s infected tally, mask availability and other important updates
Five of the 10 Chinese-language media reviewed fell short in areas such as font size and screen display Victor Ting
Published: Apr, 2020

Visually impaired people in Hong Kong are struggling to get hold of crucial information about the coronavirus because half of the city’s major Chinese-language news organisations do not have accessible smartphone apps, a local disability group has said.

With more than 2.9 million people infected worldwide, including 1,037 locally, an investigation by Hong Kong Blind Union revealed Covid-19’s “disproportionate” impact on the 2,000 visually challenged residents the non-governmental organisation represents.

Innovative Masks to Help Persons with Visual Impairment

Middle East, News
April 24 2020

ISRAEL: For the hearing impaired, this is no easy task, as it adds an extra layer of difficulty to their ability to communicate, often times with various service providers such as doctors and nurses. As face masks have become an inseparable part of the lives of millions of Israelis there are those who may have more trouble with the new law requiring to wear them.

“Masks of this type improve the accessibility and communication of handicapped people who use lip reading, as well as people with an intellectual disability,” said Yuval Wagner, CEO of the “Access Israel.”

Provincial government Responds to the CNIB Foundation About Accessibility Issues with Ontario Health Card Renewal Process

Over the last few months, the CNIB Foundation has been asking the Ontario government to ensure Ontarians who are blind, partially sighted or Deafblind have equal access to renewing their health card online. As it stands, a person needs a valid Ontario driver’s licence, which is unacceptable because it prevents Ontarians with sight loss from using the same process.

At the end of March, we received a response from Lisa Thompson, Minister of Government and Consumer Services. In her letter, Minister Thompson states:

“Renewing the Ontario health card online has been a government pilot project, and currently, Ontarians need a driver’s licence to renew their health card online. But we realize this approach does not work for everyone.

Morning Show Now with Dave Brown Puts News in the Lens of Disability

Melissa Hank
Updated: April 13, 2020

Back in February, when protesters fighting the Coastal GasLink pipeline project erected blockades on Via Rail routes across Canada, at least 42,000 passengers in the Montreal-Toronto-Ottawa triangle were stranded.

News outlets jumped on the shutdown and its related issues ” Indigenous land rights, environmental costs and government intervention. But, says morning show host Dave Brown, the coverage was missing something.

“Not one show talked about how it impacted the blind curling team coming back from the national championship in Ottawa. There’s a way that disability and accessibility played into that story that a lot of people were blind to,” he says.

The Live-Streaming Boom Proves That Accessibility in Live Music Can – and Should – Be a Priority

‘As soon as live music was taken away from everyone, suddenly it was made accessible to everyone’ Luke Ottenhof · CBC Arts · Posted: Apr 14, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has been disastrous for the music industry, but in the absence of corporeal gatherings, musicians and fans have adapted to communing online. This trend has transcended class boundaries in an explicitly tiered industry: everyone from Coldplay to your old university roommate who plays free jazz improv is streaming their live performances online for people to watch from home. It’s a newly popular workaround for an industry traditionally reliant on physical proximity.

Microsoft Joins Forces With Enable Ireland to Embed AI Into Assistive Technology Passport

Irish Tech News’March 12, 2020

Microsoft and Enable Ireland have joined forces today to announce a new commitment to embed AI into the Assistive Technology Passport which is being developed to empower people with disabilities to have an independent life. The announcement marks the 20th anniversary of Microsoft’s partnership with Enable Ireland.

Disabled Canadians Feel Excluded From COVID-19 Messaging

Michelle McQuigge / The Canadian Press
March 18, 2020

Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair, Minister of Transport Marc Garneau, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Health Patty Hajdu and President of the Treasury Board Jean-Yves Duclos are flanked by sign language interpreters as they participate in a press conference on COVID-19 at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa, on Monday, March 16, 2020.

Karen McCall clicked eagerly on the link tweeted out by her provincial health ministry, keen to read the promised list of tips meant to help her protect against COVID-19.

Accessibility Essential for Alberta’s COVID-19 Updates: We have no choice but to wait

By Morgan Black -Global News
Posted March 16, 2020

On Monday, an ASL/English interpreter was present during an Alberta Health COVID-19 update for the first time.

It’s a significant moment for the deaf and hard of hearing community, which had called on the government to provide an interpreter or live captioning during the updates.

“It’s about accessibility,” said president of the Edmonton Association of the Deaf, Sarah Snively.

“Ever since the information was released about the pandemic, hearing individuals were kept informed by listening to what is being shared in real-time through all media outlets, while deaf people were left out.”

The BlindShell: An Accessible Cell Phone with Real Buttons

by Curtis Chong
Braille Monitor March 2020

From the Editor: Many of us have had an electronic partner that stays with us almost all the time. It is a smart phone. But many blind people have felt left out in this world of accessible phones, because they lack the interest or the dexterity to use a touchscreen. They want buttons, and they want menus they can hear and use to accomplish some of the tasks that their smart phone buddies using touch screens have.

Curtis Chong offers what may be a good solution. His credentials to evaluate and explain technology are well known to readers of the Braille Monitor, so let us go directly into his article: